A native of Oxford, Michigan, Nathan Gerbe
has played a regular-season game in his home state just once in his 209-game NHL career.
This is in part due to the fact that Gerbe has played solely for Eastern Conference teams since breaking into the NHL in the 2008-09 season, and prior to this season’s realignment, Detroit was a member of the Western Conference.
Game No. 210 for Gerbe will also be his second in his native Michigan when the Carolina Hurricanes face off with the Red Wings in Detroit on Thursday.
“It’s very exciting. I always enjoy coming back,” he said. “I get to see my family. I’ll go out to dinner with them tonight and just relax.”
Most recently, Gerbe, 26, spent time in Michigan prior to Hurricanes training camp skating and training with members of the Red Wings. Oxford is just under an hour’s drive north of the arena.
“Good group of guys that was nice enough to let me come in, stay there, skate there and train a bit with them,” Gerbe said. “It was fun.”
Other than that, Gerbe doesn’t get back to Michigan much, except at the beginning of the offseason.
“At the end of the year, I usually go there for a month, and then I break off and go into my training route,” he said. “That’s basically about it.”
Gerbe’s first visit to his home state as an NHLer came on Jan. 16, 2012 with the Buffalo Sabres. He logged nearly 11 minutes of ice time, as the Wings set a franchise record with their 15th straight home victory.
This time, Gerbe and the Hurricanes, who are looking to snap a two-game losing skid, will face a Detroit squad that hasn’t won at home in eight games.
“It’s a fun place to play,” Gerbe said. “Growing up there, I was a Wings fans, so it’s fun.”
In 21 games this season, Gerbe is tied for the team lead in goals with five. Muller has called him the Canes’ most consistent forward a quarter of the way through the season.
“He works. He’s been producing when he gets the opportunity,” Muller said, simply. “What he does do is he comes prepared, he’s very professional and he works hard. Because he’s so mentally prepared, he’s ready to play every night. When you do that, you’re going to be consistent.”
The 5-foot-5, 178-pound Gerbe, who has become somewhat of a staple on Jordan’s Staal’s left wing, might be his biggest critic.
“I can always be better, and I want to be better. I want to be more consistent and a bigger force on the ice,” he said. “So far, I’ve come in, worked hard and tried to be as consistent as I can be, but I know there is a lot of room to grow.”
Though he will be in town for business, Gerbe, now in his sixth NHL season, can’t overlook the fact that he’s going home, a special time for any player.
“That’s where you grew up. That’s the team you watch growing up,” he said. “There’s so much history there. Your family is there. That’s where you were raised and where everything started. That’s why it’s special.”
Gerbe said he expects 15-20 family and friends at Joe Louis Arena for Thursday night’s game.
“We’ll let them sort it out,” he said, smiling. “All my family is there. It’s home for me, and I love it.”